Manipulation (OR “Better than expected”?)

October 31, 2008

It’s been a busy week for me. I had a business trip, which did it’s damndest to keep me busy and away from a computer from which to keep track of the news in the world.

Anyway- this is, of course, the last full week of some election-type thingy. And that’s not a vague, jokey reference. This country’s elections are probably best described as “election-type thingies”.

So, a lot happened, and I’m going to assume that you all have other places to get info on the goings on in the world. What I did catch, in all of one place:

[I]t is hard to explain the 18.1 percent jump in the third quarter in any other way. Over the last 40 years, this increase is exceeded only by a 36.3 percent jump in the 2nd quarter of 2003 (the Iraq War) and an 18.2 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 1984, at the height of Reagan’s military buildup. At a time when we are supposed to be de-surging in Iraq, it is difficult to identify any events in the world that would warrant such a large jump in military spending.

The increase in defense spending added 0.86 percentage points to GDP growth for the quarter. In other words, GDP would have fallen at a 1.2 percent annual rate in the absence of the leap in defense spending.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the dramatic increase in spending. But, like Dean Baker, who brought us this news, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen this nugget anywhere else. I keep hearing that the decline in GDP was less than expected. It might be nice to hear why expectations weren’t met.

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Fiscal Responsibility (OR Is ignoring your largest expenditure responsible?)

May 20, 2008

I’ve had the opportunity to have some conversations lately with a friend who would be best described as center-right… Amazingly, we’ve generally agreed on some of the largest topics of the day: universal health care is a good idea; deficit spending to fund war is dumb; etc…

In our conversations, I’ve fallen into the liberal trap of assuming that increased government services requires increased taxation. My friend firmly believes that we already pay enough taxes, at which point I’m reminded of how much we spend on our military. If you’ve followed me from my previous home, you you know I’ve talked about this before.

Why do I bring this up again? Because of stories like this, and Matt Yglesias’ regular mention of our need for mass transportation infrastructure, and Paul Krugman’s tale from Berlin.

I know there are also sorts of political reasons to avoid talking about cutting into military expenditures, but I can’t help but hope that a President Obama would couple a rational approach to foreign policy with more streamlined/targeted military spending. Which might also solve the problem that Defense Secretary Gates identifies.